When people think about managing a late-stage illness, paperwork usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Doctor’s appointments, treatment plans, and medication often take precedence.
However, the administrative “stuff” is, in fact, an important component of health care. Doctors’ instructions, receipts, and insurance forms can help keep patients healthy and costs down.
Managing medical paperwork can also be notoriously challenging. There is fine print to read, policy numbers to memorize, and forms to fill out — lots of them. “All those insurance statements, test results, and prescription pamphlets can feel a little overwhelming,” writes Prevention Magazine. Meanwhile, if the wrong piece of paperwork gets lost, patients may miss an important appointment or might not be reimbursed for an insurance claim.
Fortunately, there are tips available to help master the stacks of paperwork so that patients can properly concentrate on the most critical part of all: their health.
Tip 1: Make copies
Whether it’s a calendar of monthly doctor’s appointments or a receipt from a recent trip to the pharmacy, ensure you have multiple copies of important paperwork. You might keep one physical copy of important forms as well as an electronic version.
This is especially crucial if you’re planning to send forms or bills away to an insurance provider — don’t put the only copy you have in the mail. “If your insurer won’t accept copies, send the original, but be sure to make a copy of what you sent for your files first,” advises Everyday Health.
Tip 2: Implement a system
While it may be tempting to simply hold on to all paperwork, creating a system for finding what you need can help save time and avoid frustration. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself rummaging through piles and piles.
Consider having folders for different topics such as “Receipts,” “Bills” and “Treatment Instructions.” Medicare.org recommends: “Organize medical history and current health information categorically and chronologically.” This way, you can laser in on a document by using its type, and when it was created.
If you’re seeking inspiration, Pinterest users have shared photos of their organizational systems. Color-coded binders, folders with tabs, and tables of contents can all help.
Tip 3: Prioritize contacts
The most important pieces of information in all this paperwork is often the contact information: how to get in touch with your doctors and your insurance companies. They can answer questions and, if you’re missing paperwork, send a fresh copy.
For this reason, make sure the first piece of paper in your system is a list of important contacts: their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses. Caregiver.com has a tip for making this process simple: “Pick up a business card from each healthcare provider you see. Cards usually contain the name, specialty, address, phone and fax number.”
Tip 4: Know what’s necessary — and what’s not
It’s vital to be prepared and able to access specific documents quickly – without having to hoard mounds of paperwork. Knowing what’s necessary and what’s not goes a long way in keeping your records manageable.
Prevention Magazine recommends keeping insurance statements and bills for at least three years, and doctors’ notes indefinitely. What don’t you need? Three or four copies of the same document, or brochures and advertisements that came alongside with the actual important paperwork.
When it comes to managing medical paperwork, put in the extra time to do it right — you’ll be grateful later when you need to track down that six-month-old receipt. “Filing every health insurance claim in its proper place will make it easy to find when you need it and less stressful should a question about health insurance benefits arise,” Everyday Health notes. Having a good system in place frees you up to focus on what matters most, like your health and your relationships. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an advanced-stage illness, Fifth Season Financial may be able to help. Our Funds for Living Program provides clients with a loan against their life insurance policy while preserving funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future. To learn more about the program, contact us today.